Critical Golf: Unbiased Golf Equipment Reviews

Bushnell neo+

OVERALL RATING: 90. GRADE: A-. The Bushnell neo+ follows in the footsteps of the original Bushnell neo, providing text-based distance information to the front, center and back of the green, along with up to four other hazards/targets per hole. It blends basic GPS functionality with an extremely attractive price point. Battery life is strong, and the form factor of the neo+ is small enough to keep it in a pocket during play.

In a market full of GPS devices that provide more and more features (and frequently buggy software and higher prices), the neo+ goes the other way in offering just the basics – and therein lies the beauty of the neo+. For those who are looking for an easy-to-use device and can live with a limited set of distance information, the neo+ should be one of the top devices to consider.

SCORE
90
GRADE
A-
Setup/Syncing
96
Course Availability
93
Ease of Use
92
Course Details
80
Features
72
Accuracy
86
Cost/Value
95

Pros:

  • Simple and easy to use
  • Small and lightweight – easy to keep in your pocket
  • No yearly fees
  • All courses come pre-loaded

Cons:

  • Limited to 4 hazard distances per hole
  • Device will quickly drop GPS connection when in a pocket
  • Basic functionality

Retail price: $149.99
Three year total cost: $149.99
Availability: Discontinued. Replaced by the Bushnell NEO XS Watch
Amazon.com: Check price now
Golfsmith: Check price now


96 / A

SETUP/SYNCING

The Good: With all of the courses already pre-loaded onto the neo+, all that is required is to charge up the device (the battery provides six to eight hours of use on a full charge) and head for the course.

The Bad: None. If only this was the case for all GPS devices!

Details:

  • Required Steps. While you can use the neo+ right out of the box, you’ll want to set up set up a user account at iGolf.com, Bushnell’s provider of course data. Setting up an account is reasonably straightforward. The only hiccup we encountered arose due to the fact that we own another Bushnell GPS device – it turns out that the iGolf site requires new accounts (and email addresses) for each device.

What’s in the Box: The Bushnell neo+ comes packaged with:

  • Wall charger
  • Power cord
  • USB cable
  • Belt clip
  • Quick Start Guide

Required Downloads: None for initial use. And just a small applet to sync latest course data (see below).

    Syncing: Though no syncing is required to get started, you will need to get an iGolf account within 45 days of first powering on the device to make sure it continues to function. The iGolf account will also enable you to sync the neo+ to ensure you have the latest course data. At least it’s free!

    Ensuring your neo+ has the latest information requires logging in to your iGolf.com account, going to the “Profile” tab (which was not intuitive), and then pressing “Sync Device”. You’ll need to allow an applet to access your computer and device, and thereafter the latest course data is loaded in a few minutes (if you have recently updated your courses, it takes only seconds).

    This method of updating course information is much better than what many manufacturers offer. The web-based process is an evolution from the original neo, which required downloading course management software, selecting courses, and then using the software to initiate syncing of the device.


    93 / A-

    COURSE AVAILABILITY

    Critical Golf Test: iGolf (the company that provides course maps to Bushnell) has been hard at work, and the Bushnell neo+ comes in with 93% coverage in our test of golf course availability across a representative group of 100 courses. Note that we only count a course as “covered” if mapping of hazards/targets is available – which excluded a few courses where only distances to the front/middle/back of the green were plotted, and custom targets are available. The neo+’s overall ranking was just a hair lower in the Best New course category than others.

    Manufacturer’s Claims: iGolf claims to have more than 25,000 courses in the database worldwide, which puts it in the bottom half among the devices we’ve tested.

    For greater detail, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS course availability.


    92 / A-

    EASE OF USE

    The Good:

    • The neo+ is as intuitive as it gets – the buttons are clearly labeled and the menus are easy to navigate.
    • The device is so small and lightweight that you barely notice it’s in your pocket – personally, we don’t even bother to use the included belt clip.
    • Extremely long battery life means you can go multiple rounds without needing to recharge.

    The Bad:

  • Smallest screen among the devices we tested.
  • Device will drop the satellite connection relatively quickly after it’s put in a pocket, so you’ll likely have a brief wait each time you pull it back out while it reacquires the satellites.
  • Deciphering the three-to-four letter abbreviations for the marked targets can sometimes be a bit tricky (try and guess what “MFWC” means). Also, marked points are still displayed after you pass them on the hole – this can result in confusion (where you may pass a hazard but there is another similar hazard on the hole and you are equidistant from each) and also means that users will always have to cycle through screens with irrelevant hazards when toggling between the green view and target view screens (see below).
  • Details:

    • Buttons. There is a row of six rubber buttons on the bottom of the neo+: power/backlight, screen view, up, down, OK/mark shot and escape/menu. The buttons are a bit small but still reasonably easy to press with the tip of a finger.
    • Screen. The Bushnell neo+ has the smallest screen in our tests. The font size of the yardages was sufficient, but the font size for the menu options is a bit small (the neo+ features a higher resolution screen and larger text menus than the original neo). Brightness was never a problem, as the screen was clearly visible in all lighting conditions (there is the option to turn the backlight on/off as desired).
    • Form Factor. The length and width of the neo+ is roughly the size of a credit card, and it is ¾” inch thick, making it the most compact device we tested. At 3.1 ounces, it was also one of the lightest tested.
    • Starting a Round. Getting started on a round just requires turning the device on, waiting until the satellites are acquired (bars will appear in the top right of the screen – this can take up to 5 minutes), and then selecting “Play Golf” from the menu. Users can then select from a list of 10 courses ordered by proximity to their location, or choose to manually search for a course. If you select to “Play Golf” before satellites are acquired, you will only have the option to manually search. The device won’t prompt the user for a starting hole, but rather defaults to the 1st hole. Given how quickly you can advance between holes, this doesn’t cause any issues if you happen to be playing just the back 9 or participating in a shotgun tournament.
    • Battery Life. In our experience with the neo+, battery life was exceptional. Bushnell claims up to 16 hours of battery life, but we were able to play well over four rounds of golf on a single charge (and we generally play public courses, so it’s not like we’re racing through three hour rounds). With this type of life, you don’t even need to panic if you forget to bring the wall charger with you on your weekend golf trip.

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of ease of use.


    80 / B-

    COURSE DETAIL AND MAPPING

    The Good: The neo+ one-ups the simplest devices in our tests by not only showing distances to the front, middle and back of the green, but also providing pre-mapped distances for up to 4 hazards/targets.

    The Bad: The number of hazards/targets provided on a given hole was usually less than four, often even omitting significant hazards on a hole, leaving us wishing Bushnell had included more target information. And in situations where there are a number of hazards on the hole, the ones that were mapped by Bushnell were often not the ones that we would have chosen (for example, fairway bunkers in landing areas were passed over in favor of providing multiple greenside bunker distances). Also, while distances “to” hazards were often included, more often than not we were disappointed that the “carry” distances were not. These concerns are mitigated to some extent by the ability of users to customize the hazards/targets that are mapped.

    Suggestion Box: We think that through better use of the screen layout, Bushnell could have created enough space to also display the par for the hole. An additional screen or two of more hazards/targets would also be useful.

    Details:

    • Views. The Bushnell neo+ provides two different types of hole views. Both text-only hole views are accessible by pressing the “screen” button:
      • Green View: The green view (which only displays text) shows the distance to the front, middle and back of the green.
      • Target View: The target view is also text only, using three-to-four letter abbreviations such as “RFB” for “Right Fairway Bunker” and shows 2 hazard/target distances at a time, along with the distance to the center of the green (there are two of these screens per hole, providing the user with up to 4 hazard/target distances in total). There were often only 2-3 points mapped per hole, although users can custom map their own points to fill any empty slots in the allocated 4 points per hole, or write over pre-mapped points. Lastly, when there are multiple targets in one area, it can be difficult to discern which distances are provided – such as where there are multiple fairway bunkers on the right side of the hole and there is only one “RFB” distance provided.
    • Hole Information. All of the views display the current hole number, but do not provide par or hole handicap.
    • Custom Mapping. Additional hazards/targets can be added to an existing course map (up to the maximum of 4 hazards/targets), and the user can also delete pre-mapped hazard/targets and replace them with custom points of their choosing. A new course can also be created if yours isn’t mapped (for example, if you have your own private golf course), with up to 4 hazards/targets marked on each hole along with the front, middle and back of each green.

    72 / C-

    FEATURES

    The Good: Users can track how far they hit their shots.

    The Bad: Distance tracking for individual shots is about all that the neo+ does. We would love to see at least basic scoring ability in a future model.

    Details:

    • Shot Tracking. The Bushnell neo+ enables users to measure the distance of their shots by pressing the “Shot” button to activate that feature, then simply pressing ESC to stop measuring. When measuring shot distances, both the shot distance and the distance to the center of the green will be displayed on the screen. Shot distance data is not saved by the neo+ for later review.
    • Score and Statistics. The neo+ does not track any scores or statistics.
    • Clock. There is no clock on the neo+…whether that holds enough weight as an excuse for why you are late to meet your wife for afternoon shopping at the mall, we leave up to you to decide.
    • Auto-Advance. The neo+ can be set to auto-advance to the next hole, or users can choose to manually advance between holes. While the auto-advance does work the majority of the time, we found a number of occasions where the neo+ didn’t recognize that we were on the next hole and we needed to manually advance by pushing the “up” arrow. One point to note: if you were to hypothetically accidentally pick a bunker shot clean, airmail the green, and land on the next tee box, you might discover that the neo+ will have automatically advanced to the next hole, and will not let you go back a hole to find the distance back to the green that you’re currently playing. This only happens in close proximity to tee boxes, so it must be part of their software algorithm. Apparently Bushnell couldn’t fathom that anyone would be as terrible as one of our editors (who shall remain nameless).
    • Preferences. Neo users can adjust the screen contrast, the basic unit of distance (yards or meters), auto-off (at 45 minutes of no activity) and the rate at which the device refreshes GPS distances (you can elect to have the device stop refreshing distances once you stop moving, so distances won’t fluctuate when you’re basically standing still).

    Check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device features.


    86 / B

    ACCURACY
    We experienced no issues in our test of device accuracy, with all distances within the acceptable range of plus or minus 4 yards.

    Course maps were accurate with the exception of one course that was remodeled approximately 5 years ago (a popular resort course), where the neo+ displayed distances to bunkers that no longer exist, and lacked distances to new bunkers. One green that has been modified in the past year did not have updated distances.


    95 / A
    COST/VALUE

    Retail Price: The retail price of the Bushnell neo+ is $149.99, making it one of the least expensive devices tested.

    Fees for Access to Course Database: There are no annual or per course fees. Bushnell (via iGolf) provides course updates at no additional cost through the iGolf.com site (which requires a free registration).

    Three-Year Total Cost of Ownership: With no yearly fees, the Bushnell neo+ comes in at an attractive three-year total cost of ownership of $149.99, which makes it the second least expensive device tested (though by a $50 gap). Not a bad deal!

    Value: The Bushnell neo+ provides a great combination of a simple interface, great battery life, basic distance information, and an extremely attractive price point. For those looking to keep it simple, it’s hard to go wrong with the Bushnell neo+.

    For full cost details, check out the Critical Golf comparison of golf GPS device price and cost of ownership.



    • Anonymous

      Does this calculate relative distance to back and front?  Are they fixed positions or does it change as you change your reference to the green?

      • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

        The points that the neo+ provides are only fixed (so front, center and back of the green) as opposed to near, center and far based on the player location. 
        This is a good question, and we will look to add this detail for all devices under our “How We Test” section under golf GPS device features.

    • Fvoors

      I do not know when this article was written, but for gps downloads i golf is not free.. there is a fee

      • http://criticalgolf.com Critical Golf

        There is only a fee for the original neo (and original XGC). The neo+ and XGC+ do not have additional fees. [per iGolf]

    • Ron Gimnich

      My neo+ quit charging and I sent it back including the fee they charged. They sent me back a demo instead of an operable watch. It now has been 3 weeks and a replacement is no where in site. In addition with the demo they sent a cable that was for an older model. I would not buy another one.